Jonathan Landrum Jr, AP
A man with a distinctive back tattoo is suing Cardi B, with his lawyers saying he was humiliated after the rapper allegedly misused his likeness for her sexually suggestive mixtape cover art.
Kevin Michael Brophy has filed a $5 million copyright-infringement lawsuit against the Grammy-winning musician in federal court in Southern California.
Mr Brophy alleges that he did not consent to such a use of his likeness, and it had caused him to suffer distress and had disrupted his life.
Cardi B, who was in court and is expected to testify during the trial, is fighting the allegations. She has said an artist used only a “small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge.
Mr Brophy’s lawyer A Barry Cappello said photo-editing software was used to put the back tattoo, which has appeared in tattoo magazines, onto the male model used in the cover of her 2016 mixtape, Gangsta Bitch Music Vol 1.
The image shows a tattooed man from behind with his head between the rapper’s legs. The man’s face cannot be seen.
Cardi B, who is expected to testify during the trial, is fighting the allegations and said an artist used only a “small portion” of the tattoos without her knowledge. She had previously said the cover art – created by Timm Gooden – was transformative fair use of Mr Brophy’s likeness.
“Their life has been disrupted,” Mr Cappello told the jury as Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, watched from the defence table.
He said the image disturbed Mr Brophy along with his wife, Lindsay Michelle Brophy, who he says initially questioned her husband if it was him in the cover art. The couple have two young children.
Brody has said he once considered his back tattoo featuring a tiger battling a serpent to be a “Michelangelo piece” that has since become “raunchy and disgusting”.
Defence filings have pointed out that the model who posed for the photos was black, while Brophy is white.
Cardi B’s lawyer Peter Anderson said Mr Brophy and the mixtape image are unrelated. He said the model did not have tattoos on his neck, while Mr Brophy does.
“Brophy’s face wasn’t on the mixtape,” Mr Anderson said during his opening statement. “She was already popular. It has nothing to do with Brophy.”
But Mr Brophy contested in court that everyone who knows him believed he was on the mixtape cover. He said the offensive image was something he would never approve.
Mr Brophy said he sent a cease-and-desist letter to Cardi B’s representatives to remove the tattoo, but he did not receive a response.
“For me, it was something I took a lot of pride in,” Mr Brophy said about his tattoo. “Now, that image feels devalued. I feel robbed. I feel completely disregarded. There’s a lot of things I would like to be spending time on. But the only way to get this removed was to come here to this courtroom.”
Mr Cappello said Mr Gooden was paid $50 to create a design but was then told to find another tattoo after he turned in an initial draft. He said Mr Gooden googled “back tattoos” before he found an image and pasted it on the cover.
Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty to a criminal case stemming from a pair of brawls at New York City strip clubs that required her to perform 15 days of community service.
Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25 million in a defamation lawsuit against a celebrity news blogger who posted videos falsely stating she used cocaine, had contracted herpes and engaged in prostitution.